March 31, 2008
Marathon artifacts auctioned off
Collection includes high school yearbooks, ads for local companies
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Gerald Storrs of Auburn finds a book published in 1860 called the “Gazetteer of New York” that he is interested in at a large estate auction in Marathon Saturday.
MARATHON — Among old books, photographs and scrap albums and magazines that lined the walls of the gallery of Marathon Auction Sales were seven slim paperback volumes of the Marathon High School yearbook.
Three women from the Marathon Historical Society discovered these items Thursday during a preview party they hosted at the auction gallery. They returned Saturday with $100 and the determination to acquire them.
The items were all part of a collection of historic local and national print and advertising materials auctioned off Saturday, coinciding with the celebration of Cortland County’s bicentennial. Most of the items were paper, but some were glass and others were metal advertisements on tins or plaques.
“It’s purely coincidental that we’re having this auction at this time,” said Jerry Wilcox, owner of Riverbend Antiques and one of the auctioneers, Friday. “I had the foresight and I put it together.”
Auctioneers Ben Hodkinson and Tom Adams also participated in the auction.
Wilcox said all but maybe 10 to 12 advertising tins were from one collection.
The Marathon women did indeed succeed in purchasing the school yearbooks, called “Ma-Ce-Hi.”
Lavena Court, a trustee of the Historical Society, said the society had a lot of old yearbooks, but not these years. The yearbooks were from 1937 through 1939, 1941 and 1945.
“We’ve been given a lot. This was the first acquisition we’ve paid for,” Court said.
To one historical society member, Joan Fleming, the 1945 edition was special. An older sister and brother were in it — James and Catherine Fleming. She said she was the youngest of nine children. Her older sister, Catherine, was held back a year so she could go to school with her brother, James. Fleming, who was in charge of bidding on the items, said they paid $45 for that set. They had also purchased two earlier yearbooks — 1917 and 1922 — for $47 she said this morning.
White said she was surprised at what some items sold for, specifically pointing out a metal conservation button that sold for more than $100. “It’s what it personally means.”
Phillip Guy of Scott said except for time in the military he has lived in Cortland County his entire life, having been born in Marathon. “The reason I’m here is because of my interest in Cortland.”
Guy said he was purchasing county memorabilia to add to an existing collection. “I’m not planning to resell. My children and grandchildren are here with me and if I sold they would be unhappy with me.”
One item he was especially happy to obtain was a Cortland County Atlas. He paid $550 for it. While Hodkinson auctioned it off, Wilcox told the approximately 80 attendees that these atlases are getting harder to find and he sold one for more than $800 at an auction in Homer.
“I’ve been trying to buy one for 20 years,” said Guy.
“Now I have to go home and convince my wife of its value,” Guy said.
Guy had also purchased some Cobako baking company ads.
Gerald Storrs of Auburn said he was not looking for anything in particular, but was interested in looking at some of the Big Little Books . He said he has one Big Little Book from his childhood “when life was simple.”
The 73-year-old man said he collects early woodworking tools but would be interested in some of the books and the New York State Gazette, published in 1860. He said that volume tells how each town was named. He said he is familiar with it because he owns a reproduction.
“I just like advertising items. I’m not looking for anything special,” Sandy MacGibbon of Brewerton said before the auction started. She said she owns an antique shop.
Don Wright of Sheds said he was interested in pictures, toys and comic books.
Unlike many antique dealers who intend to resell items, he buys purely because he likes the item. One item he purchased Saturday was a metal sign advertising soda. He also purchased a framed set of postcards for $150.
Wilcox said he had posted 200 or so pictures online of the mostly paper items. He said there are a lot of trade cards and post cards from national companies that had local distributors. Most of the collection is from the 1860s to around 1950, but there are some early 1800s items and a few engravings from the late 1700s.
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